Chris' Original Blogbeque

A fresh, vinegar-based examination of life

The Homeless People! They’re Everywhere! (Panic, Pretend I don’t see them, or Lie?)

Posted by Chris on October 22, 2006

If I’m not unlike most people, chances are the title may have crossed through your minds at some point in your lives. Needy people do seem to be everywhere. Big cities streets are literally filled with them, and you probably have at least one of them no matter where you live (the rural area I grew up had the infamous “Foot”). Then, after we make that observation, we scan our mind for what to do. Panic, pretending, and lying are three things i’ve done. Three things I probably did most of the time when I first encountered these situations. Thankfully, I no longer live in those chains…

    Outreach to needy people on the streets


It kills me to walk pass “homeless” people and do nothing. Whether they are homeless, or just in need, living in a shelter or on the street, or even someone with a house who chooses to panhandle, it makes no difference. I always assume it’s someone in need of food or money. Second, i often consider that they may be in need of drug rehab or a job. But most of all, I try to see someone in need of love, a friend, a Savior. Not having food for them is not what “kills” me. I wish I always had food but I know I cannot. What bothers me is not knowing how to love them exactly the way in which they need.

Would Jesus walk past, in the 21st Century American context, any needy person and do nothing? This is not like a third world country, or even Jerusalem circa 30 AD, where there literally might not have been enough time in the day for someone (Jesus) to attend to each and every person. Jesus was able to attend to the crowds by multiplying loaves and bread among them, and more importantly by speaking to them words of truth, inviting them to eat of the “bread of life.” But I do not think he had a conversation with or healed every person in his path.

But, walking 6 blocks in an American city (Chicago for me today), you might see “only” five needy persons. Too many, but not an overwhelming number. For example, if I desired, I could buy dinner for all of them—just not for the rest of their lives. What would Jesus do? I don’t know.

What I have been unable to do, and don’t understand how to do, is give to each needy person that which I want the most for them. Is a smile better than ignoring someone? Maybe. Would a needy person resent a smile that comes with nothing else? As James writes:
“Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, ‘Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,’ but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it?”

What about at least saying, “hey, how are you?” I think this is better, especially with a warm handshake, or arm on the shoulder and eye contact. Does this sound paternalistic? Condescending?

What I enjoy the most is when I have something materially to offer the person AND the time to sit and talk with them, ask them questions, listen to them, and offer to pray for them. Should I do this for every person? Cannot. Should I at least do this once, even if only briefly, during every venture out into an area where I will encounter people of need? I don’t, but maybe I should. Sometimes I want to but do not because I am with people and we are “on our way” somewhere, and I don’t want to put them in the awkward position of “should we stay or should we go?”. Should they be staying, or should I be advising them later that they need to do more? Should I consider first the needs of those with whom I am in active relationships?

I have no answers for all these questions. What I do have is a list of suggestions of things I do, have done, or have heard personally of others doing that I think are good things to do whenever and as often as we can. You can find that filed under Homeless People Outreach


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